Down syndrome comes with a lot of assumed can’ts and won’ts. But the world often misses the incredible way individuals with Down syndrome adapt. With the right supports, most things are possible.
Today, more than any time in history, a life of independence and self-determination is just a click away.
My 85-year-old grandmother laughs that her 4-year-old twin great-grandsons, one with Down syndrome, knows more about modern life than she does. And in a way, she’s right! Troy gets very limited screen time, but has still managed to master his Great-Grandma’s iPad. Technology is intuitive to all young people today; children with Down syndrome are no different.
I can envision Troy living on his own one day, driving to work on time, shopping, exercising, and loving life all with the help of modern assistive technology.
Many of you may have paused when I said “driving to work,” and rightly so. In reality, the likelihood of someone with Down syndrome earning their driver’s license is extremely low. I’ve read a handful of success stories, but by the time Troy’s old enough to learn to drive that number could be higher because of driverless car technology.
This is no longer the stuff of sci-fi movies and dreamers. Tesla recently released their mid-level, $35,000 driverless car, and Nissan promises a car with “autonomous drive technology” by 2020. Google’s second generation car doesn’t even have a steering wheel or brake pedal. Google says in order for people with disabilities to benefit from this type of technology, the car needs to be completely autonomous. Regulators and society in general will have to consider the ethics of this new technology, but that debate is already beginning and there’s no stopping progress.
Inclusion Through Innovation
If driverless cars seems too far-fetched for you, there’s a multitude of assistive technologies that you probably use every day that can help foster inclusion for individuals with Down syndrome. Everyone’s got a smartphone, and that alone has endless possibilities for supporting independence and inclusion.
Got a problem or an accommodation, there’s an app for that:
Voice to Text, Text to Voice
Sign Language, iSigns
Organize Personal Tasks, iPrompt
Disability advocate and Mom-extraordinaire, Ricky Sabia, says her son, Steve’s smartphone was a life line in high school and is now crucial to his independence. “I don’t know if I would have survived him taking public transportation in high school if I couldn’t track him on “Find My iPhone.” Believe it or not, the biggest tool Steve uses now is the alarm. He sets it to remind him of when he needs to leave, when he starts a break, comes back from a break, leaves for the metro—the alarm is for so much more than getting up in the morning,” Sabia explains.
A college student with Down syndrome wants to attend a general class, but can’t take notes. No problem, Google Glasses can record the teacher’s lecture. Grade school students with disabilities could wear the glasses to the zoo and get real time facts about the animals they see.
An iWatch could track a self-advocate’s calorie intake and heart rate, all while listening to music and calling a friend.
I love how all these technologies blur the line between assistive and general consumer technology. This is Universal Design for Learning at its finest. Read my post about UDL here. UDL means providing flexible technologies so that everyone can learn. Typical people use the technologies above every day, and may not even consider how they could help someone with an intellectual disability be better included. The possibilities are endless!
What technologies does your loved one with Down syndrome use to lead a more inclusive, independent life? Share below.